Friday, April 20, 2012

photos extremadura/portugal

Ahh! I can't keep up!  Here are photos from the second half of Semana Santa: road trip out west...

The lovely, Extremeña Laura.  Here we are in her land, our first stop on the way to a tiny mountain town called Guijo de Santa Barbara, in La Vera, an absolutely stunning region of Extremadura.  We listened to Vivaldi's Four Seasons the whole way up, because the antenna was broken and it was one of five cassettes we had with us in the car.  It was perfect.

Kodak, or Lucas' fancy camera, moments...

Then we went to this tiny town to meet up with a friend of mine for a beer.  This town is called "El Gordo" and is known in the area for its many storks.  They actually have to put up spikes to stop the storks from building their gigantic nests on crumbling buildings.

 Trujillo, a town in the province of Cáceres....

...had one of the most impressive plaza mayors (main squares) I have ever seen.  That statue in the background is of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who was born in Trujillo.  Supposedly this statue was originally a gift to Mexico from United States of  another conquerer--Hernán Cortés.  Considering the fact that Hernán Cortés nearly destroyed the Aztec Empire, Mexico clearly did not want the statue, and it was instead recycled as a gift to Spain.

The fickle spring weather was scary, but luckily it only rained on us when we were in the car.  Here, for the descent into hell, we listened to the Smashing Pumpkins cassette.

Then we stopped in the Wolf Vostell Museum, curiously placed in a natural park in the middle of nowhere about 30 minutes outside Cáceres.  Vostell (1932-1998) was a German artist who was friends with Dalí, and you can see why....

His sculptures or installations or whatever you want to call them were focused mainly on human fetishes of the times--lots of cars, televisions and cassettes.  Also note that the storks have made this giant sculpture their home...

And this is in the actual city of Cáceres, I wish I had better photos, but I don't.  In any case, here are people waiting to see the Holy Week processions, also known to foreigners as KKK gatherings.

We experienced Extremadura in all its glorious history.   Here, in Valencia de Alcántara, some prehistoric dolmens.  


...amazingly, the first time I crossed the border...

I loved the streets of Portugal...sure in Spain they are narrow and winding and charming, but what are these black and white swirlies?!?!

Our turning point in the route (because we did a sort of oval route) was in a city called Évora, a world heritage site in  Portugal.  This place was so beautiful and charming!  And here are the ruins of a Roman temple that lie there.

We had these two very quirky (and old) waiters at this very cool restaurant cave bar where we had dinner.  They told us about this "club" so we went, and it was this squat-type apartment with live music, an awesome scene, and 2.50 gin tonics.  And that right there in the middle of the picture is our South Korean friend that we met in the hostel.  Let's just say she did not last long with the cheap drinks...

Portugese the Strokes. So cool.

The next morning we roamed around with our hangovers and found a flea market, where we bought 10 new cassette tapes!!!!!!

The main plaza of Évora :)

Just lovely...

Our final stop was Mérida, a city famous for it's incredible Roman ruins which were found only in 1912!

The theatre was stunning...

And I'm out of time, just as the camera was out of battery with this last shot.  Sorry for the lack in detail, gotta run!!!

photos dublin

 On our first stroll around town, we stumbled upon this lovely market inside an old Georgian mansion--the Powerscourt Centre.  Airy, elegant, luminous...expensive.  Luckily just walking around the creaky hardwood platforms was an enjoyable experience...

Dublin's name comes from the old Gaelic Dubhlinn, which literally means "black pool".  I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the river Liffey which runs through the city, whose waters are black and clear and calming.  We were intermittently rained on all weekend, but here we have a nice shot with semi-clear skies, not quite the image you get in Radiohead's first line of How to Disappear Completely
"That there, that's not me--I go where I please--I walk through walls, I float down the Liffey, I'm not here this isn't happening."

 Later we strolled over to the posh area of Merrion Square, a traditional Georgian square surrounded by pristine townhouses.  Not that exciting, but lovely nonetheless.

The reason for the weekend jaunt was to meet Sam and Matt on their Irish tour.  It's amazing how Sam and I get our acts together every year... Anyway, it was awesome to spend the last few days of their trip with them... spring break 4 life! 

This is me in front of the very nice hotel we stayed in, in front of St. Stephen's Green.  I usually stay on couches or in rooms with strangers when I travel, but squatting in Sam and Matt's room made a very different and pleasant experience possible.

And finally, a terrible tourist photo of me touching Molly Malone's breast (for good luck, they say).  She was a fishmonger who died of a fever ('cause no one could save her), and the inspiration of Dublin's unofficial anthem:  
In Dublin's fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on Molly Malone...

Monday, April 16, 2012


On Saturday night I was in a bar in the Camden Street area of little Dublin, a breath of fresh air after a typically not-so-great tourist experience the previous night out in Temple Bar.  If you are not familiar with Dublin, Temple Bar is a neighborhood in the center of the city known for its live music scene and, well, tourists.  We had other lovely moments there during our weekend stay, but that night will be forever memorable for an agressive drunk on the street, a bad frat-style band, and a wasted couple that was actually better live entertainment than the music.

Anyway, a knowledgeable friend had told us to check out the area, and that this bar, Devitt's, was a great spot for "Irish jam", not to be confused with marmalade.  After we made that distinction, we still weren't sure what to expect.  This is one of the best parts of traveling: having an idea of which direction to go, but not really a clue as to what awaits upon arrival...

So we climbed up the steep stairs to the lounge area of Devitt's and were greeted by the typical scene: waxed wooden bar tops and heavy leather-capped stools, dim hanging lamps and tons of ruddy cheeks gulping pints of dark chocolate beer.  Toasty.

After we took it all in, we drew our attention to the instruments strewn about the floor and tables.  The musicians--there were 12, I counted--were on break.  We ordered our pints and sat tight.

The music started up again soon after--and we finally understood what constituted an Irish jam.  Musicians of all ages, sitting about each other in the booths and short stools--there was no stage--dipping in and out of the session at their pleasure.  The songs, incredibly repetitive but nonetheless breathtakingly lovely, lasted 10, 15, 20 minutes, an incredible amalgamation of flutes, fiddles and accordeons.  Sadly this was an acoustic performance that was heavily deadened by the roar of the other side of the bar, the regulars for whom the music and scene at Devitt's was just another night on the town...

But there were moments of hushing, which came between every few songs when one of three vocalists would begin to sing a capella, sometimes joined in harmony by the others.  

I was mesmerized, frankly quite drunk on my 3rd tall beer of the night, and perhaps I had something close to a religious experience during one of these a capella sessions. I had a vision of rolling Irish hills, a small village tucked away somewhere, some celebration, pints clinking and feet stepping to a circular dance, holding hands, the whole village is there, the women in their busty dresses and the men in their sweat-stained smocks, muscles most definitely bulging, everything absolutely bulging with gaiety.

Now I have this song, bits of it really, resounding in the confines of my body...

I could let it out but the frustration of its fragments is killing me, and I fear, I actually am truly afraid, that I will never hear this song again, unless I may find myself anew in ye' olde Ireland, somewhere in my uncertain future...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

quick stop in madrid

It's 1 a.m. Wednesday night and I arrived back to Madrid from Ibiza not long ago.  I literally have one pair of clean socks for the next four-day trip, so here I am up waiting for the washing machine to finish so that I can hang out my clean clothes that will definitely not dry in time for the 1 p.m. departure tomorrow.  Moments like these are when I really miss dryers.

Anyhow, Ibiza was, of course, fantastic.  This was my third trip to the island: I have nearly completed a year cycle in seasons.  I think it goes without saying that summer reigns, but nonetheless the others are just as incredible in their own ways.  This spring trip was a bit faulty in the weather department, as was expected, but the lush landscape was by far the greenest I had seen it.  Then, it wasn't as crowded and buzzing as the summer months, but not as quiet and peaceful as the winter, making for a perfect medium...

And then, as in every season, there was the little patch of land where Lucas' family is settled in typical Ibicencan country homes scattered about each other.  Each home has its name (Lucas' for example, is called Can Torre), its family, its photos and books and history.  In another post, I will have to go into this history, of how Lucas' parents (originally from Madrid) ended up on the island with some 10 others years and years ago.  Anyway, something about this little organic network, tucked away in the woods of Ibiza, fills me with warmth.

I felt strange about leaving, nostalgic hours before I even headed to the airport, but how else was I going to feel?  This place is paradise.

Off to bed, then off to Extremadura.  Pray for my socks, that they may not reek of mildew!